July 25, 2005
Charles Williams

WWE Smackdown! Tag Team Championship Tournament Finals:
Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio Jr.
No Mercy 02
October 20, 2002
Little Rock, AR

You know you're watching a match that takes place in some bizarro world when Kurt Angle outworks Chris Benoit, and when a match would be better if it wasn't for Chris Benoit. That's actually very much the case here, as Angle brings a certain life to the match that Benoit just can't seem to muster. Kurt outwrestles the smaller Mysterio early on and gets cocky about it before Rey gets revenge on him and slaps Angle in the back of the head after taking him to the mat in the exact same fashion Angle did to Rey previously. Angle tags in Benoit, and the match just isn't as fun from here, as Edge spends too much time in the ring, and try as they might, Benoit and Edge just don't have any chemistry. Benoit's headlock looks pretty rough, and you don't see Benoit doing anything particularly heelish or animated, instead just working the same spot for far too long. It's actually sort of boring, and that's the type of thing I've never said about any of Benoit's stuff before. This match is missing stooging in the worst way -- Angle did it, and Benoit comes in and doesn't really sell anything over the long haul when Edge comes back, opting instead to just move right along. Angle knees Edge to the back, which sees Edge spear him to the floor in a revenge spot. The spot is fun, but why waste Edge's finisher on an early-match comedy spot? I've never understood that at all. Benoit capitalizes on the distraction created, however, leading to the first face-in-peril sequence of the match.

We then get restholds in abundance, and the crowd is almost completely dead for most of this, at least until they pick things up with all the false finishes at the end. They build nicely enough to Edge's hot tag to Rey, but it doesn't get much reaction because it wasn't teased before it was delivered. Benoit countering Rey's wheelbarrow DDT attempt into a crossface is a nice touch, but Benoit is always good for those sorts of things, and this match needed something more grand. Benoit works over Rey's back, which is fine, and then Angle comes in and again makes things somewhat interesting. Transitions were a little too repetitive here, as I can't even count the number of times both sides used a boot to the face off of a blind charge to turn the tide.

Toward the end, however, things do pick up, but all the work getting to that point was incredibly boring. Edge and Rey bust out lots of double team moves, but they're all so similar to each other that none of them really stand out, even if they do look great. The battle for the crossface is nice, with Benoit pushing the ropes back, and now, he finally seems interested in building some suspense in this match. From there on, it's just a mess though, with Edge and Angle doing the finisher-stealing stuff typical of the company style, before Angle finally counters again and Edge taps out. Holds like the anklelock should really be sold as instant death if they intend for them to be over.

The first five minutes and the last five minutes of this make the match something worthwhile, but everything in between was so pedestrian and heatless. I'm really puzzled that this match has been given so much praise. Yes, they worked two face-in-peril segments, but countless televised matches have done that since. While it was unique at the time, considering most tags didn't work that formula to the fullest, this match didn't really work the tag formula to its full potential either, and being in front of a Southern crowd that's used to that sort of thing, they probably should have embellished things more than they did.

***

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